Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A View From The Couch

Like many American’s I spend a lot of time observing life and the world from my living room couch and the view isn’t pretty either. That is the observations aren’t pretty, not viewing me laying on the couch like some great beached whale – well -- maybe a Walrus – would you accept a svelte Otter? In any event, I am struck by the commercials and how depressing they have become. At one time we were treated every evening to peppy commercials attempting to convince of us to buy soap (Tide’s In – Dirt’s Out), after shave, tooth paste (You’ll wonder where the yellow went), and a host of other fun products. Now the commercials seem to focus on the most negative aspects of our society, even though they use sexy models to draw our attention. And what are the products these people are trying to sell us?

Certainly the one I find most intriguing is the Bow Flex commercials. You know – the ones that show a young man with rippling ab’s and muscular thighs assuring us that he got this way in only 6 weeks. This is followed up by a young woman with rippling ab’s and muscular thighs assuring us that we could look like this in only six weeks. I’m not sure I want to know a woman with more muscles than me and somehow I suspect that young man got that way by spending six months in the gym and only the last six weeks on the Bow Flex. Besides, why would you want to look like that unless you were planning a vacation at the Sunny Farms Nudist Camp.

But then we have all of the pharmaceutical commercials who are pushing drugs, pills, and potions for everything from hair loss to hair removal. The toothpaste commercials are gone and in their place we have beautiful people selling teeth whiteners. These people have obviously never been to a dentist who would assure them that human teeth are not naturally white, they may appear that way but they are actually yellow. Of course that’s human teeth but these people could be Stepford automatons for all we know because once they smile their teeth are so white you could see your reflection in their teeth when they smile. They might actually glow in the dark – very natural for automatons but not very realistic for actual people.

But these are only the tip of the iceberg, because you also have those commercials that assure you that their product will solve your problem. The tag on these commercials is a half screen of fine print which could be written in Latin for all I know because the print is so small and on the screen for such a short time it is impossible to read what this product MIGHT do. The real kicker is the voice over that assures you that the side effects of this wonder drug might include, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, erectile dysfunction, and in some cases fatal side-effects might occur. This sounds to me like the cure is worse than the disease, but my absolute favorite is the commercial that ends by warning you that if you have an erection lasting more than four hours, you should call for medical assistance. If this happened to me I would be calling the Guinness book of world records, not 911.

My point was that all of these modern commercials are for negative things like insurance, health, and medicine rather than fun things like soap and tobacco. I miss the old cigarette commercials where they assured you that 9 out of 10 doctors preferred Camel Cigarettes over any other brand. Where are those doctors now? Have they given up cigarettes in favor of bottled water and Yogurt? In any case those were the good old days, but commercials aren’t the only things that I have observed from my vantage point on the sofa. I have observed that all people in the United States are somewhere between 18 and 30 years old, in perfect health, with perfect (and brilliantly white) teeth, tanned, and apparently unemployed since none of them ever seem to have jobs. I am beginning to get uneasy about this because I am starting to wonder what happens to all of the people over 30 or 40 or – gasp – 50. They don’t seem to exist in the perfect world of Television Land but I’m beginning to suspect that they are used as guinea pigs for all of those drugs with the unusual side-effects.

Perhaps the more interesting point is the huge number of people willing to degrade themselves and be publicly humiliated just to be on some reality show. Of course none of these shows have anything to do with reality, unless of course you live on some deserted island and regularly eat disgusting things. But to be fair there is an astonishing number of people who feel that America is waiting to be entertained by their unique ability to ride a unicycle and juggle six tennis balls, while playing The Rhapsody in Blue” with a harmonica dangling from a rhinestone Tiara. But then you also have those who are totally devoid of any talent past breathing in and out but appear on TV for the sole purpose of being publicly humiliated in some bogus talent search. Apparently it has never occurred to anyone that the auditions alone have determined who has talent, who doesn’t, and who will likely be selected. There is more competition displayed by the folks trying to get to the bathroom after a long sermon.

Still television isn’t all reality shows and depressing commercials, some are actually educational, or at least seem to be. Foremost among these is the History Channel which is also known as “Hitlervision” but to be fair, they seem to have exhausted WW II and have moved on to things like Archeological digs. Sifting sand looking for pottery shards can be riveting and is almost as stimulating as watching the endless parade of sharks and fish on the Animal Planet. However, the Animal Planet does provide some alternative programming that includes lions, tigers, bears, and snakes in various stages of hunting or consuming prey. I thought one of the most educational things I saw on Animal Planet was the dead man whose head was stuck inside of the mouth of his “pet” Burmese Python. I presume the Python was piqued by the inadequate supply of rabbits and tried to make a point with his master, who unfortunately died in the process. Apparently many of these animals don’t fully understand that they are PETS and should behave accordingly and not react like their brethren in the wild.

But I love TV and have learned so much from it. I think the most important thing I have learned is that watching TV in association with diet and exercise will cause you to lose weight – really -- just listen closely because every weight loss program rests on diet and exercise. So I’m off to my exercise program which consists to pillow fluffing, rummaging to find the clicker, and eating my non-fried, low fat, low carb, potato chips.

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